As writers we often choose to move through the world unnoticed, toiling away at our craft in solitude until we feel that we have created something worthy of sharing with the masses. We are deeply emotional people who moving along the fringes of society, our ever watchful eyes shifting between souls as we try to understand their stories and use them to fuel our own.
We writers are amongst an incredibly small number of souls with the pleasure and pain of understanding the true nature of experiencing a sonder moment; a moment of pure clarity where we stop and realise that there are others out there whose hopes, dreams, and realities differ exponentially from our own. It’s a moment of mixed emotion, filled with pleasure and pain when our own lives are revealed to be just frivolities in space and time which can oftentimes bruise the ego of the selfish man. However there is something truly beautiful in understanding how singularities of flesh and bone that we encounter each and every day differ from ourselves.
So we watch the world and we learn. We learn how to remain on the periphery whilst unravelling exactly what makes others tick. We learn their stories and their dreams and we use them as inspiration to create our own tales of triumph and woe. We writers are the bone collectors of the world. We hunt out the darker impulses of man or the stains those impulses leave behind and we gather up the bones, take them home with us and we study them. We reconstruct and manipulate them, and we create our own stories out of the gristle and marrow.
As despicable as it sounds, we writers seek these moments of sonder not because we care about the lives of others. Instead we long for these moments of intimacy with complete strangers so that we can better understand how to make them feel when we put pen to paper. It sounds unnerving, but I want to know what makes my fellow man feel love, so that I can show him romance. I want to know how he feels hardship, so that I can show him compassion. But most of all I want to understand his fears, so that I can extort them, exposing his bones to the bitter chill of uncertainty and terror.
I don’t expect all of you to understand this. How could you? What kind of man actively chooses to stand on the periphery of society and pick at the remains of egos and shattered dreams like some kind of tormented vulture? The entire concept is reminiscent of sociopath-like behaviour, and yet there are hundreds and thousands of writers just like me all over the world that watch the lives of others through a kaleidoscope of hope, fear, love and anticipation. We don’t actively wish for someone to fail, that in itself would be sociopathic behaviour. We simply wait until the inevitability of failure arrives so that we can scoop up the bones of a dying world and turn it into something beautiful once again.
Perhaps a better title for this post would have been scrimshaw. Since we are on the subject of creating the beautiful out of the bones of the dead why not name the post after the art of doing exactly that? But somehow it just didn’t seem fitting. Why? Because sometimes as writers the bones that we collect don’t always become beautiful pieces of art in the end. Sometimes those bones are too brittle, or too hard, or sometimes the story within is just too wild or convoluted to be told. Sometimes when we collect the bones of our society we end up doing nothing more than examining their intricate curves and faults before discarding them onto a pile of stories that will remain untold. Sometimes, we collect simply to add to our ever burgeoning bone collections.
We are collectors and story tellers, and sometimes a difficult choice must be made between a story that needs to be told, and a story that doesn’t. We must connect with the remains of tales and dreams and feel that moment of sonder so that we know others will feel it to. For if we can make our readers feel something from a pile of broken bone, then we have delivered to them a story worth telling.